A new study published in the “Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases” journal explores nutraceuticals that show potential in strengthening type 1 interferon response to RNA viruses such as influenza and coronavirus. What are RNA viruses? They are viruses that have RNA (ribonucleic acid) as its genetic material. Notable human diseases caused by RNA viruses include the common cold, influenza, SARS, COVID-19, hepatitis C, hepatitis E, West Nile fever, Ebola virus disease, rabies, polio and measles.

Type 1 interferon response is part of our immune system. Its primary function is to cause digestion of viral DNA and viral proteins in infected cells, while inducing protection against viruses in neighbouring, non-infected cells. Type 1 interferon response helps to limit the spread of infections, particularly viral infections, in the body.

Due to the worldwide spread of coronavirus, there is an increased awareness on RNA viral infections. With no vaccine or established medical cure for coronavirus, it is quite interesting that recent research has shown the potential of nutraceuticals for improving the body’s immune response against RNA viruses.

What Are Nutraceuticals?

The word “nutraceuticals” is derived from “nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals”. Nutraceuticals are nutritional or food products that can also be used as medicine. Nutraceutical products provide physiological benefit as well as protection against chronic diseases. They are now being researched heavily by medical experts as safe and effective methods for treating the body.
Nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, delay the aging process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body.

In the study, the mechanisms of type 1 interferon response are described and nutraceuticals such as spirulina are researched for their potential in helping the body combat RNA viruses.

Here is the explanation from the study:

“Moreover; the phycocyanobilin (PCB) chromophore of cyanobacteria (such as spirulina) and many types of blue-green algae, a biliverdin metabolite, has been shown to mimic the NADPH oxidase inhibiting activity of unconjugated bilirubin, likely because it is rapidly converted within cells to phycocyanorubin, a compound very similar in structure to bilirubin. This phenomenon likely explains many of the profound antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects observed when spirulina, phycocyanin (the prominent spirulina protein incorporating PCB as a chromophore), or PCB itself are administered in rodent models of human pathology Hence, ingestion of spirulina or of spirulina extracts enriched in PCB may have potential for boosting type 1 interferon response in the context of RNA virus infection. Oral administration of a cold-water spirulina extract rich in phycocyanin has been found to decrease mortality in influenza-infected mice. ”

More On Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in both fresh and salt water.

While studying it as a potential food for space travel, NASA found that 1 kg of spirulina had the same nutrients found in about 1,000 kg of assorted vegetables.

Spirulina is a nutritional powerhouse rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, and more:

  • Protein: Spirulina is 65-70% protein (more than meat!) of which 95% is digestible. The quality of the protein in spirulina is considered excellent, comparable to eggs. It contains all the essential amino acids that we need, making it a complete protein.
  • Carotene: 25 times more than carrots; 50 times more than spinach.
  • Vitamin E: 3 times more than wheat germ.
  • Vitamins B: Highest whole food source of Vitamin B12 and B Complex; one heaped dessertspoon (approximately 12 g) of spirulina powder provides over 500% of the US RDA of Vitamin B12, 21% of Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), 21% of Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) and 7% of Vitamin B3 (Niacin).
  • Iron: 2-6 times higher in iron than beef liver; 300% more iron than steak.
  • Organic minerals: Loaded with more than 14 organic minerals which are highly bioavailable, like calcium, magnesium, potassium, chromium and other trace minerals.
  • Antioxidants: Contains more antioxidants than any other whole food.
  • Chlorophyll: Richer in chlorophyll than alfalfa or wheat grass, making spirulina an incredible alkalizer and blood purifier.
  • Glycogen: Rich in glycogen. When energy is needed, glycogen is quickly mobilized to provide the body with the fuel that it needs. Spirulina is the only known vegetable that contains glycogen.
  • Healthy fats: Spirulina contains both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and contains 3 times more Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) than Evening Primrose Oil. GLA has shown to be effective in strengthening the body’s immune system.
  • Enzymes: Good source of natural enzymes.

Gram for gram, spirulina may literally be the single most nutrient-dense food on earth. It is low in calories, with 1 tablespoon of spirulina containing only 20 calories and 1.7 grams of digestible carbohydrate.

Spirulina has been well-researched for its many tremendous health benefits. These include:

  • Antioxidant powerhouse. Spirulina contains a rare antioxidant compound known as phycocyanin which helps protect cells from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage can drive chronic inflammation, which contributes to cancer and other diseases.
  • Lowers blood pressure. Spirulina can increase the production of nitric oxide, a signalling molecule that helps the blood vessels relax and dilate, which may help to lower blood pressure levels.
  • Protects cholesterol from oxidative damage. Fatty structures in the body can become oxidized, known as lipid peroxidation, which promotes the progression of many serious diseases. The antioxidants in spirulina appear to be particularly effective at reducing lipid peroxidation.
  • Increases oxygen in the blood. Cells that have optimum oxygen levels will give us more energy, enhance brain function, and lower stress. Oxygenated cells help the body overcome fatigue and maintain a youthful appearance. Poor blood oxygenation deprives the cells of energy to clean and rebuild. As a result, our immune system weakens, which can lead to viral infections, DNA mutations, pathogenic bacteria infection, inflammation, heart disease, toxic build-up in blood, and premature aging. Poor blood oxygenation is the number one cause of declining health and disease! Spirulina stimulates the production of various stem cells including red blood cells which help to supply oxygen while keeping the blood clean.
  • Improves sinus issues. Studies have shown that spirulina benefits the body by reducing the inflammation that causes people to experience sinus problems. It is very effective at reducing various symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching.
  • Increases haemoglobin. The most common form of anaemia is characterized by a reduction in haemoglobin or red blood cells in the blood. It is fairly common in the elderly, and may lead to prolonged feelings of weakness and fatigue. One study showed that spirulina supplementation increased haemoglobin in the body. Immune function also improved.
  • Promotes a healthy gut. Spirulina promotes the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which can help the body eliminate Candida cells as well as support the immune system.
  • Helps control blood sugar.
  • Detoxifies heavy metals (especially arsenic) from the body.
  • Boosts energy and improves endurance.
  • Offers neuroprotection for brain disorders and memory failure.
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